If one had to choose the quintessential video game genre, I think it’d be platformers. While obviously not the first type of video game ever made, it’s definitely what people think of first when they think about the medium. Probably due to that Italian guy. So, when it comes to platform games, it’s a bit of a double-edge sword: you’re making something that will resonate easily with people, a world whose rules are more easily recognizable. But you also run the risk of treading old ground, and losing identity to the point where it could just be any of the thousands of games in the genre. “Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo” falls somewhere in between all of that.
As it’s to be expected with a retro-inspired platformer, the story is not the main driving force behind the game. The Evil King returns, you must stop him. That’s about it, really. In order to stop him, you must traverse different levels, collecting skulls from skeletons you stomp on, and throwing those skulls at a shrine. There’s one shrine per level, and the number of skulls needed to advance to the next level is indicated by yellow circles flying around the shrine. Each skull you throw at it decreases the yellow circle count, until you’re done and teletransported to the world map for your next adventure.
It’s a system that works well, especially in making the very short levels last longer. There’s a fair amount of backtracking to be done to collect all the skulls, as you can only carry one at a time. There’s even more backtracking if you try to collect all the coins and gems strewn around each level. This does provide more replay value, but because the levels are so short, backtracking can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore.
Presentation-wise, “Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo” falls somewhere between the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, both visually and in terms of sound. The sprites are very reminiscent of early 8-bit console titles, while the music is chiptune all the way. The music, while we’re on the subject, is really rather good; sadly, it doesn’t change per level, but per area, so you might hear the same track one too many times for your liking. I can understand why it’s done, as the levels are very short (and there’s even incentives for speedrunning them), but I did wish each level had its own tune.
The first few levels are also somewhat the trickiest, as you only have one life to finish them. You can, later in the game, add more “heart pieces” (I’m sure I’m allowed to use Zelda references here) to have more health, but those first few levels… well, you’ll be dying a lot. The lives you’ll collect won’t only make it easier for you to win; they are actually necessary to reach certain areas where it is explicitly required for you to lose a health point to reach your objective. Again, this does provide replay value, as you’ll need to gather enough lives to survive, and then run around the stage collecting skulls, coins and gems… but it can sometimes feel more like a grind than something enjoyable.
At its core, though, “Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo” is a perfectly competent platformer, full of retro charm and some quite clever level design. It does not do enough differently to set itself apart from the library of excellent retro-inspired platformers on the Vita, but if you’re aching for a new way to scratch the retro platformer itch, there’s plenty to like about this little game.
At a Glance:
- Title: Super Skull Smash GO! 2 Turbo
- Publisher: Poppy Works
- Developer: TACS Games
- Format: PSN Download
- Memory Card Space Required: 51Mb
- Cross Buy: TBC
- PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC
Lover of portable gaming and horror cinema. Indie filmmaker and game developer. Multimedia producer. Born in Paraguay, raised in Canada. Huge fan of “The Blair Witch Project”, and “Sonic 3D Blast”. Deputy head at Vita Player and its parent organization, Infinite Frontiers.
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